PERSPECTIVES ON REVIVAL
The late Dr Edwin Orr once said that, by recounting the stories of past revivals we not only educate the present generation about the past but also could stimulate the hunger for another revival. This is precisely what we want to achieve with this series on the Pentecostal and Charismatic revivals that occurred in Nigeria in the 20th century.
There are various views on revival. Some proponents of revival see it as a special phenomenon different from an everyday affair. Norman Grubb sees revival as a continuous experience. He says that revival is not a one-off event we have to wait for, but a continuous experience. “Revival,” he said, “in its truest sense, is an everyday affair right down within the reach of everyday folk, to be experienced each day in our hearts, homes, churches and fields of service… The truth is that revival is really the Reviver in action, and He came two thousand years ago at Pentecost. Revival is not so much a vertical outpouring from heaven (for the Reviver is already here in His temple, the bodies of the redeemed) as it is horizontal out moving of the Reviver through these temples into the world.”
Reinhard Bonnke sees revival differently. He says: “Christianity is revival.” He further adds: “Revival is often described as an ‘extraordinary work of God.’ That is a fair description from the human angle, but is it correct to think of God making a special exertion from time to time? God’s power has no degrees, no human ‘good, better, best.’ Everything He is, perfection and omnipotence, are behind everything He does.”
REVIVAL OR REVIVALISM
John H. Armstrong, advocate very strongly that an understanding of the appropriate theology of revival is indispensable to appreciate what true revival is. He argues that this lack of understanding is responsible for the loose way the word revival is used and thrown around. In making a distinction between revival and revivalism, he submitted that the flurry of activities that goes on in the prayer movement and the various conferences where people gathered to pray for revival is revivalism and not revival.
REVIVAL OR REFORMATION?
Dr Walter C. Kaiser Jr. makes a very important distinction between revival and reformation. He writes that reformation is an internal change that originates from the word of God and spreads to the wider society, while revival is a Spirit-inspired conviction that originates from the heart.
There have been strident calls for the Church to move from the place of praying for revival to seeking reformation. One of the proponents of this view is Cindy Jacobs, prominent for her intercessory and prophetic ministry. While making a case for transformation, she says that “revival can lead to transformation, but only reformation can institute sustainable change.” She contends that the results of past revivals hardly lasted. “The impact of past revivals has been limited to a few years because “spiritual transformation often gets put into a ‘spiritual box’ and stored away.” To have a more lasting impact, she advocates a reform of the overall culture of the society.
THE NEED FOR CONSTANT RENEWAL
In reality, neither revival nor reformation or transformation endures on their own; they all have their span before atrophy sets in. As Carlton Booth observed, “Revivals do not last, the effects of revivals always endure.” The principle of atrophy states that things tend to degenerate with time. So, be it revival, reformation or transformation, none lasts without constant renewal. Only by constant renewal can any of these phenomena be sustained.